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Hugh David has liver-ripping fun with Japanese ghosts

The battle to destroy the eight seals dominating Kyoto steps up in this second half of the second series adapting the manga of the same name.  Nura, our young hero, here finds his desire to use the supernatural to protect humans means he has put his clan in the way of much greater harm than ever before – and before series’ end, yokai, onymyoji and humans will have all spilled blood….

It feels rare after all these years to follow such a cheerful anime down the path of darkness, but it has been worth the trip.  Fans of the first half of this series will not be disappointed; the shift of tone from series 1 has been a good thing, as the extent of horror possible within magical myths and the individual back-stories of the many characters combine to deepen the show.  Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan – Demon Capital truly earns its 15 rating this time out, with a quest by the villainess for human livers which she will happily kill for, leading to her demonic birthing process in an underground sea of fear and human blood.  Meanwhile, fights in the present and past shed ample blood and paint the stories of many favourite clan members in tragedy, fuelling their sense of self and giving their often sacrificial actions a heroic dimension.

There will be tears by the end of the series, but also still a few laughs here and there, and definitely cheers at wicked action moves; this is still a shonen show first and foremost, and the fights are still a key element of Nura.  Unlike other shows, they are balanced nicely with the character moments and side dramas, something that has led some commentators to accuse the show of being slow or taking its time.  It is actually a refreshingly mature approach to the genre, making use of the weekly episodic format to dole out key information just when it will benefit the bigger storyline the most. It is that part of the serial TV craft that keeps us watching week after week, binding the viewer more closely to the story, rather than just keeping things ticking over until the next battle.

In fact, as we come to the end of the second series, it is clear that the show’s extended cast is not a negative either.  Nura is a typical juvenile lead, but his older Yokai self is far more interesting, especially after all he goes through.  His friends and followers, however, have gone from occasional comedy cameos to individualised followers with their own stories, strengthening both them and the show.  Some of the show’s best moments come from them, not from the lead, and this bodes well for future animated adventures, of which we can be certain (given where this adaptation leaves the manga storyline) there will be many.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai 2.2 is out next week on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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